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The exciting work of digitizing our photo archives

A few weeks ago, The Lakeville Journal put out a call to our readership asking for help in saving our archive of photo negatives from newspaper coverage in the Tri-state area between 1975 and 2005. 

The negatives had been stored in our office on Bissell Street but when we moved to our new headquarters on Route 7 in Falls Village, we had to find a new home for the file cabinets holding those old images.

For several years now, Lou Timolat and the Falls Village Saw Mill have hosted the archive, but because it’s an unheated space (no air conditioning either) with lots of sawdust, it’s not an ideal location. And the saw mill, which has been doing robust business, needed the space back. 

So we put out a call to our readers, hoping someone would take over stewardship of the collection. We had never dreamed that someone would step up and help us to digitize those negatives, an enormous job. Once the negatives have been electronically scanned the original negatives (which not only take up space, they also deteriorate over time), there is no longer a need to store them.

Kathy Phillips in Sharon, our white knight, not only volunteered to start scanning the images, she’s actually followed through and has been swiftly moving through the dozen or so files that we first delivered to her home. 

Perry Gardner has also been scanning our old photos, for two local historical societies.

The progress they have made, and the excitement we have felt as we look at the images they have rescued, inspired us to look into the cost of having a professional firm take on the enormous job of digitizing the approximately 60,000 negative strips in the collection. 

We are waiting for cost estimates and hope to start a GoFundMe or Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to do the work. 

In the meantime, they continue to scan negatives — and unearth treasures in the process. 

One omen that we are doing a very special job: On Jan. 19 of this year, Phillips sent us images she had scanned of a thoughtful-looking man with a handsome beard. On the same roll of film were images of paintings and sketches, and an art studio. We looked at the signature on the sketches and realized that the images showed Arthur Getz, the famed New Yorker magazine cover artist and Sharon resident. We contacted his daughter, Sarah, and shared the newly scanned images — and she told us that Jan. 19, the day we got in touch with her, was the 25th anniversary of her father’s death. 

We will run those photos of Getz in a future issue.

We are now mainly working on film rolls from 1984 and 1985. From time to time, as space in the newspaper allows, we will continue to share images. In addition to the photos on this page, look for historic photos of the Salisbury Winter Sports Association ski jumps on Page A6.

There is a photo on this page of a famous fire that destroyed a downtown building in Great Barrington (historian Bernie Drew and Berkshire Edge Editor Terry Cowgill helped us identify what was happening in the photos).

And a photo of one of the fundraising suppers, from 1985, that are such an important part of life in the Northwest Corner.

There are many photos that we can’t identify, and we ask any of our readers who know for certain the people and places and events in these images to send an email to cynthiah@lakevillejournal.com to share the information, which we will load into the notes on the images. 

We hope soon to also make these images available online. You can also search our newspaper archives online at http://scoville.advantage-preservation.com. We have not digitized every single photo on the negative strips in our collection, there are just too many of them. But we have tried at minimum to include the photos used in each issue, as well as a few extras. 

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